This interdisciplinary study offers the first major composite cultural biography of an original and its copies, the St John's Cross on Iona. The cultural biographical approach, with its focus on networks of relationships between things, people and places, makes it possible to identify how the meanings of things change in different contexts and through time, and to provide a context for that understanding. This in-depth case study explores the biography with a focus on the themes of significance, value and authenticity through time. Place emerges as critical to that understanding. Ultimately, it invites new ways of thinking about how replicas 'work' on heritage sites and illuminates the broader heritage policy and practice implications. Arguably the logo of Iona, this artistic and technical eighth-century masterpiece is thought to be the progenitor of all Celtic high crosses.
The research draws extensively on previously unexamined archival, oral and rich visual sources, and includes a detailed ethnographic study of the 1970 concrete replica, commissioned by the Iona Cathedral Trustees which is the outcome of an extended effort by Iona-lovers to replace the stone original, which had repeatedly fallen down and could not be re-erected in its original location. Replication has been part of Iona's identity since at least the sixth century, when St Columba arrived and established his monastery. In modern times, tourists have been able to purchase Alexander and Euphemia Ritchie's Iona Celtic Art based on designs on the carved stones. In a place with so much replication and commodification of these copies, how is the St John's Cross replica valued and what is the perception of its authenticity? A short-term focused ethnographic assessment is provided, comprising semi-structured interviews and participant observation to explore a variety of themes. These include authenticity, brands and icons; the part social relations play in the construction and negotiation of authenticity; the difference it makes where a replica is; and the difference its materiality makes. This shows how a replica is a thing in its own right, it can acquire value, authenticity and aura, its life impacts positively on the life of the original and other copies, and it can generate and extend networks of relationships between people, places and things. The human story of creativity, skill and craftsmanship is fundamental but is likely to be invisible if the replica 'works' as a just a proxy for the original. The idea is that text will be accompanied by illustrated text boxes and, punctuating the text, 'talking heads' that 'speak' quotes, conveying different 'gazes' on the Cross through time.
Publisher: Windgather Press
Number of pages: 224
Dimensions: 246 x 189 mm